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Dr. Gridlock
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Posted at 01:58 PM ET, 02/28/2012

Silver Spring meeting Tuesday night on University Blvd. Beltway bridge plan

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The Maryland State Highway Administration plans to replace the bridge deck, supporting steel beams and other parts on University Boulevard (Route 193) over the Capital Beltway.

I support the repairs but am concerned that traffic will be tied up for an estimated two years, starting this fall.

The notice to neighbors says that traffic will be reduced from three lanes to two, and that the only way to complete the work faster would be to close the bridge. There is an informational workshop from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday (too early for many neighbors to get home from work).

Just paving University Boulevard has tied up traffic incredibly badly. It has taken up to 35 minutes to drive three blocks in the snarled traffic way before hitting the part of University Boulevard actually being paved.

— Nancy Loy, Clifton Park

I plan to go to the SHA’s public information meeting tonight in the cafeteria at Montgomery Blair High School (51 University Blvd. East in Silver Spring, close to the University bridge). And then on Sunday’s Commuter page in The Post Metro section, I’ll address the concerns of Loy and other travelers about the impact of this major project

Maryland has been renovating the bridges along its side of the Beltway. Just east of the University Boulevard bridge, SHA is in the midst of a two-year renovation of the Northwest Branch bridge, another necessary project, but one that has added to the already bad congestion along the Beltway, particularly during the morning rush.

Unlike the Northwest Branch bridge, the University Boulevard bridge is over the Beltway, not part of it. But this project’s impact on traffic still will be quite significant. One of the questions Loy asked me is whether it would be better to shut the bridge completely, give the workers full access to it and get the job done faster.

I’ll check, but based on similar projects, I think the answer will be that even if the project’s timeline could be cut in half — from two years to one year — the traffic issues resulting from a complete closing of a major commuter route would leave drivers howling.

And University is a major east-west commuter route for residents of Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. Many of them will remember what traffic was like when SHA narrowed the lanes on University for a lengthy traffic and pedestrian safety project in nearby Langley Park.

The narrowing of University at the bridge won’t be the only restriction, though. Project managers also plan to close the portion of the Beltway outer loop ramp that leads to eastbound University and the bridge.

The many drivers who use that ramp could instead continue on the outer loop to the next exit, at Colesville Road (Route 29), take the exit ramp toward downtown Silver Spring and turn left at the traffic light onto Franklin Avenue and drive back to University Boulevard. The detour is about two miles.

This isn’t the only option, and I haven’t described the only effects on traffic. Those effects will ripple through that entire area. Let me know your questions and concerns, and I’ll try to address them on the Commuter page this Sunday.

By  |  01:58 PM ET, 02/28/2012

Categories:  Capital Beltway, Maryland | Tags:  Maryland transportation, Maryland State Highway Administration, Capital Beltway,

 
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